Are you doing work that matters?

This is day 2 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

I ask myself this question often.

Some days I believe that I’m doing work that matters. Work that is helping companies grow bigger and get better. Work that is helping entrepreneurs get smarter. Work that means something to me.

Other days, I waver. I have doubts about the direction my career is headed. I wonder if I’m spending my time in the best way.

The first issue is defining exactly what work matters.

I think the first criteria of this definition is doing work that matters for others.

In some cases, it’s pretty clear.

For instance, my wife is a Safety Evaluator for the Food and Drug Administration. She monitors drugs and pores through data of reported side effects to help decide if any action, such as updating drug labeling or issuing a public warning, is necessary.

She is protecting the health of those who take prescription medication. It’s evident that this is work that matters to others.

Those who work for non-profits that provide clean water to people in Africa, or those who are searching for a cure for cancer, are clearly doing work that matters for others.

Other times, it’s debatable.

A cigarette manufacturer, a stock trader, and a management consulting (trust me, I was one in a past career) are some of many jobs that are questionable.

The next criteria is doing work that matters for yourself. This is at times intertwined with doing work that matters for others, but not always.

If you are doing work that matters for others, it’s easier to believe that you’re doing work that matters for yourself. You feel good about your work, you feel that it has an impact. You have a clear mission, and that’s a powerful thing.

If you doubt whether you’re doing work that matters for others, it may be more difficult to believe that you are doing work that matters for yourself. Your mission may be a bit more clouded, your direction a little unknown.

Or, you might not care and completely believe that you are doing work that matters to you, which can be powerful as well.

For instance, let’s say you’re the guy who developed Flappy Bird. You developed this game that was super-hot for a few months. You provided entertainment for the masses for a short time. Is that work that matters for others? It might be, it might not be.

Or, maybe you just don’t care, and that it matters to you. You may not be curing cancer, but you built something that people enjoyed. And you made a financial killing to the tune of $50,000 per day, and that might be enough to matter to you.

I don’t know the guy who built that game, so I’m not judging at all. I’m just saying that the definition of work that matters, to you or to others, is in the eye of the beholder.

And I’m not complaining at all about my work situation. I am fortunate to work with great people and am happy with my current job and side projects.

But that doesn’t mean doubt doesn’t creep in every now and then about where my career is headed and whether I’m doing the right thing. I think a little bit of fear and apprehension is healthy, if it doesn’t get to the point of being unhealthy. It keeps you on your toes and helps you to constantly improve.

I’ve been in jobs before where I truly didn’t believe that I was doing work that mattered.

So I think that everyone should ask themselves if they are doing work that matters. If not, and if it bothers you, you should think about making a change.

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